A good friend of mine named Robert Sabella, astrologer and intuitive extraordinaire, purchased a skin care line for 600 Euro (about $652 USD; he and his business coach wife, Michela, live in Amsterdam), thinking the line would help with his skin concerns. After a month (A MONTH) of faithfully using the products, he didn’t notice any changes in his skin and neither did his wife. Because of this, he emailed me asking the important question: Why, oh why, didn’t the skin care improve his complexion? The website was gorgeous and made all sorts of claims with visuals to knock your socks off. What should he have looked for to avoid spending money on a product that looked nice, smelled nice, had amazing packaging, but didn’t deliver? That, my friend, is what we are talking about today, and it’s a doozy. Given that I’m a studied aesthetician, I know how to shop for skin care.
“Beauty is in the skin! Take care of it, oil it, clean it, scrub it, perfume it, and put on your best clothes, even if there is no special occasion, and you’ll feel like a queen.” – Fatima Mernissi
Keep Your Knickers On
Websites are sales pages. They are created to hit your pain points right where it hurts most, as well as the WE HAVE THE SOLUTION narrative to get you to buy from them. The number one place, if not the only place, to look when you want to know if a product is viable, is the ingredient deck. For example, the brand in question touted buzz words like organic, clean, non-toxic, essential oils, flowers, herbs, etc. However, on closer examination of the serum ingredient list, (and we will go into what you need to specifically look for in ingredient decks), was a Botox alternative! The ingredient in question sat at the number two position on the deck, and rates high on the toxicity scale of EWG.org (Environmental Working Group). It is far removed from the non-toxic, organic, clean marketing of the brand. Also, the serum was priced at over $200 USD, meaning that you’re paying a lot and getting very little in terms of qualtiy. As I read the deck, I gasped in shock. It was such a blatant and even flagrant display of dishonesty; I (almost) couldn’t believe it.
The Botox alternative immediately plumps up the skin, giving the user the idea that the product is “working” and therefore great. On closer examination, the ingredient has absolutely zero positive effect on the skin. Botox, fillers, and any ingredient like that, does nothing to better the skin. They are the quick fixes that many people look for, and even though they are marketed as “preventative”, they do not prevent anything. Once you discontinue use, your skin can potentially look worse than it did when you started. What do mature ladies need to know about skin care scams and ingredients to avoid this pitfall?
Active Ingredients VS Fluff
Ingredient decks can be epic and overwhelming. Not being a compounding pharmacist myself, it took me while to figure out that there are only about six active ingredients to know, and the rest are fillers to make the product smell, look, and feel lovely. Trouble is, smell, look, and feel have absolutely nothing to do with effectiveness for mature women (and men’s) skin concerns, and can constitute a skin care scam. It’s the difference between eating a cookie and an apple. The cookie tastes, smells, and looks delectable, but offers nothing in terms of nutrition and health. The same goes with skin care.
The six main active ingredients to look for are Vitamin C, Retinol, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’S), Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide or B3, and essential fatty acids. These ingredients are often complicated by the fact that they often come under different names and compounds. To make this more concrete and practical, let’s go into a few specific insights so you know exactly what you’re looking at.
Vitamin C Serum
The Big Daddy of skin care is undoubtedly Vitamin C. It is a wonderful anti-oxidant, improves the look of age spots, sun damage, and wrinkles that we mature women want help with. Look for products in dark, glass bottles, as Vitamin C is highly unstable and will spoil if not kept under these conditions. There are about eight different types of topical vitamin C, but the two that are the most efficacious are tetrahexydecyl ascorbate, and tetraisopalmitate, listed as close to the top of the deck as possible. The further down the deck, the less of it in the bottle. Both of these types of vitamin C are oil soluble, not water soluble like their cousin, L-Ascorbic Acid. Oil is far better at getting beneath the top layer of skin than water, which is why L-Ascorbic Acid is less expensive, and more prevalent in skin care. However, it is more irritating, offers minimal results, and though costs less, is nominal at best.
If you’ve never used vitamin C before, start with Vichy Ampule Serum with 10% L-Ascorbic acid. (Yes, I said L-Ascorbic acid was nominal, but it’s a good place to start). Then, once you’re skin has adjusted to that, upgrade to a 15-20% with Image MD Restoring Youth Serum with tetrahexydecyl ascorbate. It’s very hydrating and non-irritating. If you want huge results, head for 70-80% of the same type of vitamin C with Transdermal C Serum. It’s one of the highest concentrations of the ingredient on the market and, in my opinion, one of the purest and best. Percentage counts, and if not listed on the bottle, can be relatively assessed by checking where it’s listed on the deck.
Retinol or Vitamin A
Retinol is one of the greatest methods to cause cell turnover, build collagen, tighten and brighten skin, and minimize lines and wrinkles which means you will have some flaky skin and dryness, but it’s necessary as you remove the hard top layer of skin that forms as women mature. I use Retinol daily with no negative effects, but I’m an old hand at this. For beginners, try Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, and if you want greater results, try Retinol 1% or 5% from Truth Treatments. It’s good to allow your skin time to adjust to higher quantities, and this may mean using a product three times a week rather than daily until your skin adjusts.
AHA’s are hydroxy, salicylic, and glycolic acid that speed up the cell cycle and help the skin look more radiant. I use AHA’s in my cleanser and also monthly in an acid peel combined with microdermabrasion. As an aesthetician, I can do this at home, but normally you’d have to pay around $150-250 every month to have this done. That being said, peels are the quickest way to take advantage of AHA’s wonderful anti-aging prowess. Using an AHA facial wash will help, though, and will produce noticeable improvement over time. Try L’Oréal Glycolic Cleanser to start, or use CeraVe SA Cleanser for similar results.
Niacinamide & Essential Fatty Acids
You can use this vital vitamin internally and externally, but the best results come from taking it internally along with vitamin A, C, D, and E. For the essential fatty acids, take Omega 3-6-9 oils at two to four tablespoons per day, or get the Omega 3-6 together, but be sure you have both three and six, and not one or the other. They need to be taken together or your oil intake is off-balance. As we age, we need more oils, not less, and shouldn’t shy away from not only taking essential fatty acids, but adding more oils to our diet with olive oil, real butter, and coconut oil. Remember, mature women need essential fatty acids!
Sleep and Exercise
Skin health is 80% internal and only 20% external, so getting your supplements and diet right can have major benefits in your skin. That being said, the 20% of external skin care and a positive mentality is undeniable. Sleep, exercise, and meditation can strengthen not only our skin, but entire health including mental, physical, and emotional health. We are whole beings, and cannot separate our skin from the rest of our bodies.
Remember, keep your knickers on when you shop for skin care, read the ingredient deck and look for the top six active ingredients. If you can’t decipher the chemical terminology as many of the above ingredients come in different forms, use google search and EWG.org to discover what each ingredient in the top 5-10 in the deck are doing for you so that you don’t needlessly spend money on, shall I say it, crap.